Liberal Practicality as Science

pimp Just encountered a new example of our old friend, liberal practicality. This time, it’s not craven Democratic Partiers, but high-minded scientists:

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems.

How, then, does UCS justify its pimping of overclass attempts to extend the Age of the Automobile, to say nothing of its perhaps even more craven and anti-scientific shilling for “biofuels”?

Well, the answer comes right there in the same “About Us” blurb that begins with the above claims to rigor, objectivity, and seriousness:

Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

“Effective” and “practical,” of course, both mean the same thing: politically safe within existing arrangements. Or, even more plainly, hopelessly insufficient.

The results? Take a look at this chart, which shows UCS’ view of the advantages of so-called “electric vehicles” in the three power-generation regions of the United States. Not only might you find it pretty newsworthy to see that UCS’ label for the dirtiest energy-production regions of the country are the “Good” area, but check out the baseline for this bogus EV pitch — a regular car that gets 27 MPG!

What would happen to the UCS numbers if one were to use the MPG rating of the best existing gas cars?

That number is 37, which is 37 percent higher than 27. It doesn’t take much scientific rigor to figure out that a rather base trick is afoot here.

The only possible scientific attitude to automobiles is that they were and are a capitalist pipedream and also a dire threat to the future of human civilization. The only possible genuinely practical policy recommendation is for radical reconstruction of towns and cities to facilitate non-automotive locomotion. To the extent continued car-use must be a transitional part of that larger plan, the only conceivably rational and honest recommendation is to advise people to always buy the best available regular-gas car, and to push for imposition of radically higher MPG rules and heavy taxes on gas guzzlers, which should be defined as all automobiles not within a few MPG of the best available models.

Shame on you, UCS!

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Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

Michael, I agree as usual, but my attitude towards liberal practicality might be changing – not in a sense that I find it any less despicable, but rather from an opposite direction – that radical politics might be a tad more theoretically shallow than we are willing to admit? I suppose I can trace such doubts to reading a few of Allan Bloom’s books, and in general getting more serious about political philosophy and the “range of alternatives” available to us, and, not that I understand all this stuff all that well, but it seems that any serious political thinking… Read more »

High Arka
Guest

Life without danger is actually far more dangerous. If we weren’t all so afraid of physically confronting those who harm us, we wouldn’t accept the pitiful “shelter” offered by the murder state.

The argument could be made that independent street dealers battling for turf, and guys who hold up convenience stores, are the ones actually challenging the status quo, and that the rest of us are just whining. Such an argument, of course, would flaunt all the moral standards of modern civilization, as well as being highly impractical.

Marla Singer
Guest
Marla Singer

But, HA, isn’t that precisely one of the permanent dilemmas that delimit the realm of the possible political solutions? Apparently, humans have a major difficulty simply disregarding the realm of necessity (e.g. proudly neglecting their next meal, physical integrity, and the survival prospects of self and family in the name of an idea) – typically it simply does not happen (except in very rare extraordinary circumstances), which is why those controlling the means of livelihood generally have it pretty easy through the aeons, revolutions-shmevolutions notwithstanding. That we have always had some exceptions – people choosing dignity and the good over… Read more »

Michael Dawson
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Rebellion is certainly rare, and successful rebellion even rarer, but it’s also the only hope, so far as I can see. Meanwhile, another humongous crisis is all but certain. Do we want to try to fight Hitler again, or vacate the field in advance due to our ennui and confusion? I don’t think it’s even debatable. There’s only one option: prepare and struggle. As for Allan Bloom, what has he ever said about the range of alternatives? That we should cede power to neo-Platonist philosopher kings? That supposedly more serious and definitely more reactionary colleges will solve our problems? Please… Read more »

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

Right, but isn’t it also at least partially the case that both Hitler and the Soviet revolution were ‘rebellions’, and both inspired by ostensibly humanist thinkers. Robespierre reign of terror also seems to have been influenced by Rousseau, etc. My sense is that in talking about ‘rebellion’ as a way forward (which it can be, in principle), radical politics is in fact silent about the tradeoffs that must be made. Specifically, what would be the organizing principles of the aftermath? It could be that the bourgeois revolutions were so successful precisely because Locke, Hobbes, Hume, etc. were crystal clear about… Read more »

Michael Dawson
Guest

It’s quite true (and also understandable) that the left has a great deal of thinking left to do about what fighting means. Socialism 1.x certainly proved that an overthrow is not much of a move toward a decent new society, and also that a willingness to lose and wait (i.e. democracy) is indispensable. But Allan Bloom? What does he have to say about trade-offs and limits? He doesn’t recognize that there was anything at all progressive or desirable about the 1960s, and paints the Ideas of super-archaic royalists living in early agrarian slave societies as a model for modern societies.… Read more »

High Arka
Guest

Our understanding on the likelihood of success is based on a very limited history, which is filtered through to us by elites. When we look at how greatly they distort even things like Hollywood romances, it’s remarkable that we believe whatever Oxford University Press publishes about the Magna Carta–these people are vile and untrustworthy. Who’s to say that society wasn’t idyllic up until a few hundred years ago? Or, fine, a couple thousand? Many animals, in a “state of nature,” live in rather idyllic settings of mutual cooperation, lovemaking and play, and ample resources. It’s quite likely that humanity has… Read more »

Martin
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Martin

No one’s abandoning ship here at TCT, but there is grumbling in the rank( singular) – we are at the outskirts of Emerald City, leftenant?
The signs are portentous and dismal, and one of our best is reading, of her own volition, the still-not-yet-dead-enough Allan Bloom. Another leftie wannabe pundit quotes, extensively, “Christian psychotherapist” M. Scott Peck.
Identity politics has its vaunted success, but do you really want to glorify the on-going construction of the nonsensical category of “race,” or the gender-sexuality embitterments? “Struggle” is nothing without realism.

Michael Dawson
Guest

I don’t concede that recent declines into pomo-academic gamespersonship by the heirs of the fight ought to make us forget how real the fight was. Jim Crow was no joke, and neither was the bravery and smarts it took to sweep it away. As for gender and sex, I recommend this as a refresher on how things used to work.

Michael Dawson
Guest

“Hundreds of generations of our predecessors, and millions of our successors, may be watching us in this time to see whether or not we lose hope in the face of a mere few centuries of assholes with cars and computers.”

Arkie, may I put that in our quotes machine? Lovely line!

High Arka
Guest

Jim Crow was no joke, but as Dr. King suggested, the legal right to sit at a counter was valueless without the legal ability to afford the sandwich. In that, “Jim Crow” was just a different way of expressing the same situation that exists now–a less insidious, more honest form of atrocious/deadly caste discrimination. In a just society, we would be as appalled at the “economic” segregation of “today” as at the “racial” segregation of “yesterday.” There has been progress of a sort, and real fights of a sort, but so little has been tangibly accomplished that we’re really running… Read more »

Michael Dawson
Guest

There are other explanations for everything Bloom argues, as you must know, Marla. Was there ever really “an experiment in excellence” in American education, or was there merely some room available for it in a few places until it was killed off? And who killed off the glimmers of seriousness in education and higher education, and when and why? What if the crucial shifts happened in the 1970s, after the overclass decided it was going to start doing things about the “crisis of democracy”? Bloom never considers it. In fact, he never really considers anything but what he already knows,… Read more »

Marla Singer
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Marla Singer

I’ll get the West book. Otherwise, well I don’t know enough to judge if Bloom and other Classically Taught dudes discount or disregard newer legitimate ‘serious alternatives’. Regardless, it was refreshing to be reminded that behind the avalanche of writing in both literature and social sciences, the key human issues are very few in number, and most of the writing articulates them poorly. Every single of the ‘policy debates’ i see on a daily basis is usually just a mangled and unconscious citation of something that hobbes, or locke, or rousseau etc. said, and much better and more thoughtfully. Sure,… Read more »

Michael Dawson
Guest

Personally, I know of only one good argument against equality. That is the observation that authority (as distinguished from mere power) is a real and useful thing. In any human group, but especially on a planet of 7 billion, some people are going to end up with special skills, and should therefore be treated as elders, not oppressors. But I fail to see how that point puts much of a dent in the importance of the hard-won opening line of the Dec of Independence. We know Allan Bloom was a proud elitist. Pretty clearly, he presumed that, until the 1960s,… Read more »

Marla Singer
Guest
Marla Singer

Yeah, he can be called reactionary to the extent to which he seems to have believed that modern liberal democracies cannot be improved. Not meaning that improvements cannot be made within them, but that as regimes they might indeed be the best we can hope for. However, I don’t see this as a reactionary argument. It is actually simply a resurrection of the argument in the “Republic”, which I personally find fairly convincing – the perfectly just regime is, beyond any reasonable doubt, politically impossible, and all others are horrible. Democracy is mostly terrible as well, but unlike all other… Read more »

Michael Dawson
Guest

Marla, what makes you think Bloom liked liberal democracy?